'Severe weather' emergency launched to protect Milton Keynes rough sleepers during heatwave

The protocol is usually only launched during freezing winter periods

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 4:12 pm

Milton Keynes Council has declared a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) for homeless people sleeping rough throughout the city.

Extreme hot weather can be as dangerous as freezing temperatures for those living on the streets, says the national Homeless Link charity.

Yesterday the Citizen revealed how homelessness had reached summer levels in MK, forcing the city's Winter Night Shelter to appeal for extra donations and help. You can read our story here.

MK is experiencing a homelessness crisis at the moment

Today MK Council is asking people to contact the local homeless outreach team at SMART if they see anybody sleeping rough. Essential supplies can them be handed to them during the hot weather.

The email for SMART is [email protected].

A spokesman for Homeless Link charity said: "People working in homelessness services, or supporting people who are homeless in other ways, need to be aware of the risks to health that hot weather brings. Temperatures around 25°C and over are associated with excess summer deaths."

The Public Health England Heatwave Plan for England warns that: 'in contrast to deaths associated with cold snaps in winter, the rise in mortality as a result of very warm weather follows very sharply – within one or two days of the temperature rising.'

SWEP protocol has been launched this week by MK Council

Homeless link experts say being prepared and acting early are key to protecting people’s health.

"Deaths may be from underlying illnesses made worse by heat – primarily lung and heart diseases – or from heat specific conditions, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Mental ill health may also worsen during hot weather," said the spokesman.

"For people sleeping on the streets, it can be a challenge to find drinking water, cool showers and cool spaces to spend time in. Without safe storage, people are often wearing extra layers or carrying heavy bags all day. It isn’t only people sleeping rough who are affected – in some shelter and hostel buildings, temperatures don’t drop to comfortable levels at night. And whether housed or not, people may be drinking more alcohol during longer daylight hours, increasing their risk of dehydration."